Friday, November 6, 2009

How I'm Now Keeping Twitter Time Under Control

I have author friends who still won't explore Twitter world because they're convinced the social site will be a time suck and will not provide a direct benefit such as drastically increased blog traffic or book sales. I don't blame them a bit. Twitter can be addictive. It takes a long time to build the relationships that lead to more blog traffic. And book sales? Maybe, maybe not.

My original reason for exploring Twitter was to increase traffic to my blog, and also to The Blood-Red Pencil blog where I am a contributor. I also use Twitter to promote classes and workshops for Northern Colorado Writers, book signings, and books I've read and wish to recommend.

At the beginning, I spent way too much time reading tweets (messages posted by the people I follow) and searching for more people to follow. It takes time to learn the process and figure out how to efficiently use this tool while also making one-on-one contacts. It also takes time to learn who you can trust (and you shouldn't click on links until you're very sure).

Once I was past that newbie phase, I found these self-imposed rules make Twitter fun to use without taking up too much time:

1. I change my password from time to time. I don't want to lose a lot of time fixing things if my account is hacked.

2. I don't tweet the link to every blog post. I pick the ones I think will appeal most to my target audience, two or three times a week, and tweet that link one to three times during the day.

3. I check to see who has recently included my Twitter ID in a tweet (by clicking on my ID in the sidebar). I acknowledge these with a reply when appropriate.

4. Then I quickly scan three or four pages of recent tweets. If I see a comment or question of interest, I reply. If I have something to say or ask, I'll post a note on that subject.

5. I try to hold myself to ten or fifteen minutes per session.

Like Facebook and other social media sites, Twitter will eat up as much time as you allow. You need to invest a lot of time at the beginning, perhaps the first three months. After that, it's up to you. Are you strong enough to set time limits? Powerful enough to resist the fun extras and stick to the plan? If so, try it out.


Terry Odell said...

I'm still very much on the fence with Twitter. And, as I discovered when you tweeted about one of my blog posts, it did virtually nothing to increase visits. I think it might have value as a communication network -- such as the recent tragedy in Texas, where cell phone lines were jammed, so people resorted to social network sites to communicate -- but it's still too superficial for me judging from all the tweets I see on my own Facebook page. Get a clue, folks; no need to feed every tweet to Facebook. We really don't care about what should be private correspondence.

I like taking my blog time in the morning with my coffee. I feel that fewer in depth 'discussions' outweighs a mass of trivia.

That's personal preference. And, for the record, I don't like book trailers either! I'm a cantankerous old broad. :-)

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great tips, Patricia.

I've gotten quicker at Twitter and FB. They used to be much more of a time suck than they are now. Guess I've got more self-imposed boundaries now than I did.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Karen Walker said...

Twitter is still kinda hangin' out there for me. I check into it once every few days, but I never got the @ thingie or re-tweeting or how to really connect with people. glad it's working for you,though.

Paul D. Brazill said...

I think you're right. Sometimes, arms length is not far enough away!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Hi, my friends. Yep. Self-control. That's what it's all about. LOL at myself -- I have about as much self-control as an earthworm.

Terry -- For the record, I don't like book trailers either. Watched two good ones, shrugged, and haven't watched another one since. That's not how I would pick my reading material. As for it being a promo tool for my own book, there's no room in my already stressed writing budget.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I seem to have the same Twitter habits as you; I'll use it for a link to some of my blog posts and I check to see where my name is appearing in other feeds. I find it very useful for discovering interesting articles or blogs, but I try not to spend too much time there.

However, I have won several writing contests on it which has resulted in many nice books!


Patricia Stoltey said...

I forgot about the contest thing, Elspeth. Right after I joined, I won a book from PopSyndicate -- a signed copy of Marshall Karp's new mystery. And I didn't even do anything to win.

If a person had time to watch the messages flow past, there are submission opportunities from editors and agents, writing contests, links to blogs which are having giveaways, etc. It's a great place to hang out if you don't need that time for writing your next book.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

Great minds think alike. I approach Twitter the same way. I have to say, it can be good for making connections.

Anonymous said...

Yep, it's easy to get sucked in.
I made a conscious effort to stay off FB this week, and go on Twitter the same way you do. I loved the twitchats but it feels like everyone is talking over everyone else and by the time you post there's some 50+ "new" posts!

Alan Orloff said...

Like you, I find that using Twitter can be time-consuming. Most of all is the time it takes to count up all the characters so I don't go ove

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

I sit with my computer on my lap now, close to 12 hours a day. Twitter, I do, but not often. Much rather be reading blogs!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

As someone who struggles with Twitter, I appreciate the tips. I didn't even know about the ID thing on the sidebar. I think I'll bop back over to Twitter and give it another go.

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Thanks for this take on Twitter. I’m still not much of a believer. Couple of questions for you…

I see you have 500 plus followers. Of those, how many come by the blog? After all, one of your purposes was to increase blog traffic. A very reasonable objective. So, has it done that for you, and how do you know?…especially if they don’t leave a comment.

In terms of the ones you follow. How closely can you follow 600 plus people? Simple math says that if each one does 2 tweets per day, that’s an overwhelming number to try to deal with. I get tweets in my outlook program, and am distressed at how many tweets my paltry 50 or so generates. I never see any of them on my blog, only my faithful regulars.(God bless you each!)

So, if they’re not gonna visit, they’re certainly not gonna spend money on my book. If they’re not gonna do either of those, what’s the point of “wasting” time sorting through their 1200 tweets. Where’s the value? What have I gained? Yes, a few interesting articles, you bet. But beyond that?

I don’t mean for this to sound confrontational or embittered, I just am trying to establish a time value, effort/reward metric. Frankly, I just don’t see it in any quantifiable way. Thanks, Patricia.

Best Regards, Galen (The Curmudgeon)

Imagineering Fiction Blog

Terry Odell said...

Galen, you've echoed my thoughts. Heck, I have over 900 "friends" on Facebook (but maybe two would help me move, and none would help me hide a body). I have a counter on my blog and website, and although I don't Tweet, I've had people say they've tweeted my post, and they have 500+ followers. In checking my stats, the most I've tracked back to twitter on any given day is 3.

It might be fun, it might be name recognition, but I don't think it's much of a business tool unless you're Big Name Author, in which case people would probably buy your books anyway.

Galen Kindley--Author said...

We're of like mind, Terry. No wonder I think you're pretty sharp. (Wink.)


Patricia Stoltey said...

Hi Galen and Terry, my favorite Twitter bashers -- You gotta do your own thing...Twitter isn't for everyone.